RALEIGH, NC – Torchlight Academy Charter School in Raleigh ranked number one in student growth index in Math and Reading among all charter schools in the state of North Carolina, according to just released statistics from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
“I am absolutely humbled by this number one ranking,” said Dr. Cynthia McQueen, Principal of Torchlight Academy. “We celebrate our academic success, but we must maintain perspective and remember that some very important things can’t be measured by a test, such as character, work ethic and integrity. These attributes are unquantified each year but are an equally important part of student development towards reaching the ultimate goal of making productive global citizens from our student population.”
Achieving Growth in High Poverty Schools
Torchlight Academy’s accomplishment is noteworthy given that over 90 percent of its student population is economically disadvantaged, as defined by eligibility for free and reduced lunch.
Studies conclude that poverty may reduce a child’s brain function and that economical disadvantaged children suffer from reduced brain activity, according to a 2015 report from the North Carolina Reading Association Institute.
In addition, “poor children are three times less likely to have a parent read to them; less likely to have nutritional meals each day which would enhance the child’s ability to learn; less likely to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet, count to 20, or be able to write their first name before kindergarten; less likely to complete homework and come to school prepared; and more likely to transfer from one school to another,” the report stated.
Children who come from impoverished homes are likely to have impoverished vocabularies (Allington, 2012; Cummingham, 2009). In a study conducted by Hart and Risley (1995), it was determined that by the time the children were 3-years-old, parents who were poor said fewer words to their children.
Children from professional families know 1,100 words by age 4. Children from family of poverty only know 500. This is largely why schools with high-poverty predominantly minority student populations tend to get lower grades (D or F) than those with wealthier, oft-times, white students.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Achieving such results, Dr. McQueen said, was due to the support of the Torchlight Academy Board and due to the remarkable diligence and coordination of the school’s faculty, educational consultants, students, parents and staff – all participating as co-creators in student success.
“We couldn’t have had this significant growth without EACH member of our Torchlight family. No one person is responsible for our success. It indeed was the hard work, dedication, passion and belief of all our stakeholders,” McQueen continued.
Teachers conducted daily appraisals of student progress and ensured each child understood the day’s lessons before leaving the classroom. Tutors, volunteers and educational consultants were invaluable and the Vice Principal meticulously tracked each students’ progress through Excel spreadsheets daily. Students were informed of their current academic level in relation to predetermined milestones and what additional exercises were needed to achieve their individual benchmark.
“Teachers successfully used a data-driven instructional framework which is a known best practice, particularly for at-risk students who often transfer into Torchlight one, two sometimes three years behind grade level,” said Education Consultant Jessica K. Miller, who began working with Torchlight 5 years ago.
“All North Carolina educators, in both charter and traditional, schools should be applauded for their dedication, sacrifice and commitment to student growth, even if their score was lower than they expected. We are grateful to God for our success in student growth, however, we sincerely believe that one exam, on one day, does not adequately capture the depth and breath of our students intellect and talents, nor does it define the quality of education of a school,” said Don McQueen, Executive Director of Torchlight Academy. “We need a more inclusive way of assessing character development and academic achievement.”
About Torchlight Academy Charter School
Torchlight Academy Charter School is a free, public charter school in Raleigh, N.C.
Led and operated since 2002 by Mr. Don McQueen and Dr. Cynthia McQueen, Torchlight serves over 500 grade K-7 minority students, over 90% of whom are impoverished.